Ambassador Kelly Craft
U.S. Mission to the United Nations
New York, New York
June 25, 2020
Thank you, Madam President. Thank you, SRSG Lyons, it’s great to see you today. Director Waly and Chairperson Akbar, thank you for your informative briefings and for your efforts to be here today.
The United States remains fully committed to assisting Afghanistan achieve a political settlement to the conflict. Recent developments reflect the promise of peace and the critical challenges that must be overcome to end a conflict that claims Afghan lives every single day. The Afghan government and the Taliban have taken important steps toward intra-Afghan negotiations that include the Afghan government, other Afghan leaders, including civil society and women’s groups, and the Taliban.
These talks promise the best chance of a political roadmap to sustainable peace. Once they begin, we will have reached the international community’s long-stated goal of an inclusive, Afghan-led, and Afghan-owned political process. Since we last discussed Afghanistan in the Council in March, there are three significant and positive developments in Afghanistan that offer hope for reaching this milestone.
First, the United States welcomes the agreement reached between Afghan President Ghani and High Council for National Reconciliation leader, Dr. Abdullah. As the two set aside their differences, the formation of an inclusive government that can stabilize Afghanistan, advance the peace process, and tackle the COVID-19 pandemic remains essential.
Second, because the reduction of violence is paramount in order to create the conditions necessary for intra-Afghan negotiations, we recognize the Taliban’s decision to observe a ceasefire during Eid – just as we recognize the Afghan government’s decision to reciprocate and announce its own ceasefire.
Third, the Afghan government has now released over 3,000 Taliban prisoners, and the Taliban has released more than 500 prisoners. These are important milestones in this confidence-building measure. Furthermore, it is significant that the Taliban publicly committed to join intra-Afghan negotiations within one week of the Afghan Government releasing 5,000 prisoners.
Against this backdrop of positive developments, we must be candid about the serious challenges that remain. Since the Eid ceasefire, violence has continued to climb, and innocent Afghans continue to bear the costs of this war, as witnessed by recent, devastating attacks. Left unchecked, this violence could disrupt the start of negotiations. The United States condemns all such attacks, most especially those specifically directed against civilians and civilian objects that violate international humanitarian law.
Recently, there have been shocking attacks against healthcare workers and facilities. The U.S. condemns them and, furthermore, condemns threats to healthcare workers and the brazen use of explosives in civilian-populated areas. The appalling May 12 attack on a Kabul hospital, which targeted its maternity ward, killed at least 24 civilians, most of whom were female patients. Among the dead were newborn babies. On the same day, a suicide attack at a funeral in Nangarhar, claimed by the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant in Khorasan Province, killed at least 19 civilians killed and injured many more. We also condemn the attack this week on the Attorney General’s Office lawyers and other team members working to facilitate prisoner releases, which killed five civilians. We cannot overlook these awful incidents, but I lso want to be clear: No party should allow spoilers to deter them from the path of peace.
The United States also recognizes that COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the lives of the Afghan people as the virus continues to spread across the country. The United States continues to build on its commitment to supporting Afghan healthcare and livelihoods. We have contributed $20.6 million in COVID-19-related assistance to Afghanistan for critical surveillance, treatment, and prevention programming.
While mindful of the fact that practical details will need to be worked out, we are closer to our goal of a post-conflict Afghanistan than ever before. We reiterate to the Afghan government and the Taliban the importance and benefits of incorporating women’s rights and participation in all aspects of the peace process – as well as the participation of other underrepresented groups.
This momentous opportunity should not be missed, and the Trump Administration will continue to do its part. We call on both sides to build on the momentum they created with the Eid ceasefire and accelerated prisoner releases – to reduce violence, to continue to release prisoners, and to work pragmatically toward agreement on the modalities of negotiations.
In closing, we recognize the work of UNAMA in supporting the Afghan people in creating an environment conducive to the intra-Afghan negotiations. The United States remains committed to ensuring that terrorist organizations are never again able to use Afghanistan to threaten the security of the United States or its allies, and we look forward to continuing our work with SRSG Lyons to advance peace and stability in Afghanistan.